Belfast Telegraph

Review: Terry Riley, George Brooks, Talvin Singh - Elmwood Hall, Belfast

By Jane Hardy

One of the coups of this year's Belfast Festival was getting Terry Riley, the noted American minimalist composer who is now celebrating his 75th birthday, to play on the last night alongside sax player George Brooks and the Mercury Prize winner Talvin Singh on tabla.

Riley, who sports the obligatory 70s patriarchal beard, wrote the seminal work, In C, which was brilliantly performed on Saturday afternoon.

I've never seen so many smiling faces at a concert, as people wandered among the young instrumentalists, catching now a jazzy trio, now a harpist or burping bassoonist, who were all playing at their moment of choice bars from the same score.

In fact, minimalist is a misleading label for this composer as the sounds were rich and engaging, a sort of everyday music of the spheres.

So it was at the prog jazz, world music and wholly engaging gig in the evening.

It began with Riley singing as his keyboard synthesized a sitar sound, while Singh did amazing things with his one-man percussion section and Brooks provided the most mellow counterpoint.

There were hints of The Beatles' Indian summer and Within You Without You from Sergeant Pepper, but over an hour-and-a-half of masterly music, many genres and musical styles were referenced.

Riley moved to the grand piano and here we gained a sense of the American playbook, with Gershwin-y bits and snatches of what sounded like Forties songs feeding in to Riley's eclectic, clever and expansive technique.

The third number had a distinctly bluesy feel, with some great saxophone additions and a really breathtaking solo from Brooks.

Then the song A Shadow On A Rainy Night transformed the Elmwood Hall into a club somewhere on the Parisian Left Bank.

A very Soft Machine-Robert Wyatt night, and that’s a compliment.

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